Smile Through It II: The Next Chapter

Chasing dreams, because I can

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Back to the North

Posted by Oli on Monday 17th March, 2008

With tremendous excitement, K and I load up the car and head back Northwards to Durham for the second time in a month. Bizarrely, as we arrive off the A1(M) and head into town under the Castle and Cathedral, artistically lit and welcoming, it feels like coming home. Odd that you can get that feeling on just your second trip, but there you go. If it weren’t for K and uni, I get the feeling we’d already be house-hunting.

The day started on a more mundane level, with K heading off to work, me getting through a chunk of email stuff from the weekend which was demanding my attention and then managing to scoot off to the gym, know it’s pretty unlikely I’ll see it again till Thursday.

I come home and rest up after my work-out, getting in an hour’s nap before grabbing some lunch, tidying the flat a little, then heading off to pick up K from work and start the journey upwards.

We get on surprisingly well on the trip, managing it door-to-door in about 4-and-a-half hours, which includes a stop on the motorway and minor detour through Durham, plus un petit hiccup finding our final destination.

Said destination was the house of Dr Stephen Cronin, a – frankly – complete madman who’s taking on the Everest Marathon at the end of May along with a team of friends including a runner who suffers from CF.

The house – and family – are both gorgeous and delightful, even if the former is somewhat overrun with preparations for tomorrow’s lunch for the ladies of Durham at which I am to talk and try to increase the sponsorship coffers of the Tenzing-Hilary Marathon team.

The Tenzing-Hilary Marathon is bonkers. Also known as the Everest Marathon it does exactly what it says on the tin – you walk/hike/trek for 12 days to Everest Base Camp and then – because clearly there’s nothing better to do – you run 26.2miles back down the slopes you’ve just come at an altitude which roughly halves the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. You’d have to be crazy to even think about attempting it, let alone fill in the application form, so I’m bowled over by the fact that Stephen appears – at least at first sight – to be completely sane, a minor penchant for running silly distances not withstanding.

It says something for the family, though, that their eldest son, Alex, has accompanied his dad on all of his 4 marathons so far and is gutted – yes, really, honest-to-God disappointed – not to be able to do this one too, wrapped up as he will be in exams.

Still training doesn’t appear to be so hardcore at the moment that Stephen can’t kick back a little bit and we were treated to a lovely Chinese take-away not long after our arrival, which is always a sure-fire way to win me over.

Shattered from the journey and mindful of the big day ahead tomorrow, we retire early to our accommodation on-site at their Coach House guest house across the courtyard. (Yes, their house is big enough for a courtyard…). For anyone even thinking about visiting Durham, this is undoubtedly the place to stay. I have no second-thoughts about a large and blatant plug for the place here, as it is one of the nicest places I’ve ever stayed in and so wonderfully close to the centre of Durham by car, too. Click here to check it out.

We’re hugely lucky to be given our bed, bathroom, kitchen and sofa gratis and even get a lovely little welcome pack of breakfast bits-and-bobs to see us through. The attention to detail is amazing and K and I spend at least 15 minutes exchanging “oooh, look”s at each other as we find something new and cool.

The place fully explored and long, hot, travel-cleansing shower taken, we hit the sack and attempt to get in a good night’s rest before tomorrow’s event.


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